While the majority sentiment has focused on over-managing and the alleged Mariano Rivera spitball, it’s an entirely different issue that may have cost the Yankees a nine-inning win last night.
With two on and one out in the top of the eighth and the score tied at four, Melky Cabrera and his slumbering bat feebly approached the plate. Predictably, Cabrera struck out.
The man who should have been hitting in his place, Eric Hinske, was mistakenly left off the Yankees’ ALCS Roster.
Although there are few players in the Yankees’ everyday lineup who you would contemplate pinch hitting for (really just one), Cabrera certainly qualifies as one of them. Through six playoff games, Cabrera is now hitting just .200 with zero RBIs and nine strikeouts in 25 at bats.
Cabrera is absolutely the Yankees’ best option in center field and should remain in the starting lineup, but the absence of a big bat off the bench is glaring, late in tight games.
Hinske, who homered seven times in only 84 at bats since his arrival to New York, could have provided a power surge necessary to give the Yankees a 3-0 stranglehold on this series.
Assuming Hinske delivered, the Yankees’ bullpen was three outs away from handing a lead to Rivera who would have been on in the ninth inning (sooner if necessary) to seal the Angels’ fate.
Instead, Cabrera meekly struck out swinging and Derek Jeter subsequently ended the inning by grounding out to Kevin Jepsen.
Then the late inning histrionics ensued.
The reality is that the Yankees’ obsession with speed has adversely affected the flexibility of the bench. Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman opted to go with two burners in Brett Gardner and Freddy Guzman in addition to carrying three catchers on the roster, which led to Hinske’s ouster.
Jerry Hairston’s versatility has been overlooked. Though not the prolific base-stealer that Gardner or Guzman is, Hairston is fast enough to be an efficient pinch runner and his ability in that regard negates the need for Guzman on the roster.
Right now, the Yankees’ bench consists of Hairston, Gardner, Guzman, Jose Molina, and Francisco Cervelli. That’s a weak cast of hitters to say the least. Hairston is the most accomplished of the bunch, but instills no fear in opposing managers as a potential pinch hitter.
If Cabrera continues to struggle offensively, the Yankees are compelled to grin and bear it due to their own miscalculation.
Meanwhile, Hinske’s Louisville Slugger remains idle in the bat rack.